She’s quite right, especially about the notion that people get a job in one of these orchestras and then “move up” to another orchestra. Not only are there few positions open, but the audition process itself is enormously expensive and emotionally wrenching. Once a young player wins a permanent seat in a fine orchestra, becomes part of a community, etc., the motivation to go through the horrors of the process diminishes considerably. If you have a strong enough sense of your own worth that you don’t need the prestige of being in an ever more prestigious orchestra, or being a principal player, it can turn out that playing in a wonderful orchestra in city like Indianapolis, where the cost of living is low compared to New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago, can make for a wonderful life.
A former student of mine is now the Associate Principal cellist in a southern orchestra. I had assumed that once he got that job, he’d be using it as a stepping stone for a more prestigious one. He’s not trying for other jobs, though; he’s happy where he is. He’s probably happier where he is than he would be living in a big, industrial northern city. And he has no desire to put himself through the audition process again.
The exciting news for orchestra lovers is not that terrific young people graduate from conservatories, spend a year or two in a regional orchestra, and then move on. It’s that terrific young people, qualified to play in any orchestra in the world, graduate from conservatories, join a regional orchestra, and spend a life there making music.